May 17, 2004

The War on Error

Who could have guessed that in the first few years of the 21st century we'd be discussing how much or what kind of torture works best. Particularly since the conversation takes place not in some developing nation under rule of tyranny, but in some of the biggest advocates of "democracy" and claimants to the moral high-ground unparalleled in scope or insistence.

Now officials from the only country that has legally endorsed the use of torture (and see how successful they have been in achieving peace and security by use of violence - this kind and other - for over 50 years) is providing us with expert advise.

A few days ago a co-worker was in the midst of a speech about how "If what happened in Abu Gharib saved an American life, then it was justified and necessary". Nothing new there, you have heard similar arguments in various opinion pieces I'm sure and even heard a most prominent member of the Congress state similar thoughts. Of course you've also heard it from every single dictator that practices torture regularly anywhere on this planet. You'd never heard an official of the Iranian government for example, admit to torture during the past 25 years to extract information or to punish and break prisoners. It was always to save innocent lives the terrorist were going to murder or protect the safety of security personnel. Do you think Saddam himself ever offered a different excuse? doubt it.

So I asked my co-worker a question; let's pretend it was him who had been arrested, either wrongfully or justifiably. There was an armed robbery gone bad at his bank, the thieves disarmed an officer and took him hostage while running away and are now threatening to kill him. My co-worker was thought to have been left behind by the gang and is now in custody under suspicion of being an accomplice. Would the authorities be right in torturing him (in ways seen by the limited released pictures from Abu Gharib) in order to extract information about his supposed cohorts' hiding place and identities? After all, it may save an "American" officer. He thought for a few minutes and the best he could come up with was that "Americans should be excluded!"

I know some of you have been hurt, as truth is often very bitter indeed. I know some hate it that their favorite November candidate may suffer by this. I know the sense of honorable justifications and that certain "superior cause" gesture is now in danger forever. I know how deeply offended and hurt some of you must feel, even if its deep inside and you still show a different image on the outside.

But wrong is wrong and standing up to it, no matter who commits it is the only principled option. Don't try to justify such a horrendous wrong. Don't look for scapegoats either. This is just the tip of the iceberg on how an inept and biased administration used the pretext to "War on Terror" and turned it in to "War on Error" to achieve fraudulent and devious goals set out to protect the interest of a rather small number of foreign and U.S. nationals, most of it contrary to the best interest of this nation and majority of its citizens.

If you can come to that conclusion, salvation (not necessary in the religious context) is right around the corner.

Posted by Pedram at May 17, 2004 11:59 PM

I love that quote: "Americans should be excluded!"
That explains all that is going on in the world in four simple words.

Posted by: The Other at May 18, 2004 02:13 AM

What I donít undrestand is why some people are surprised about this whole thing. Torture and murder has been part of the fabric of American society and the mentality of every American specially those of european extraction since those 160 reject criminals who didnít have a pot to pee in their own country set foot on the Plymouth rock.

Posted by: sixpack at May 18, 2004 06:17 AM

It comes right down to the same old problem; our foreign policy does not reflect American values. Foreigners don't see American domestic values (freedom, liberty, equality, etc.) because they are on the receiving end of American foreign policy which calls for all kinds of things that would either be unconstitutional inside the U.S. or which our leaders would not be willing or able to inflict upon our own people.

Consider the recent sanctions against Syria for failing to expel certain (mainly Palestinian) groups. Assad protests that the people in Syria are not engaged in terror but are only spokespeople for these groups. Largely (if not entirely) this is accurate. No terrorist attacks have been launched across the Syrian-Israeli border (into Israel) in decades. Yet the U.S. policy makers see no contradiction in the fact that agents and spokespersons of the Mojahedin-e Khalq continue to operate and raise money in the U.S. (for example Hedayat Mostowfi @ and

How is it that we see this contradiction? Because we, as Americans, believe in the right of people to hold whatever beliefs they wish, no matter how repugnant, even advocacy of terrorism, as long as it does not harm anyone. BUT, we do not trust Assad or anyone else outside the U.S. to be able to handle liberty.

If Americans had to eat our foreign policy they would puke it out.

Posted by: Brad at May 18, 2004 06:56 AM

When it comes to torture, the question for me has not been whether or not it is wrong per se, as much as a kind of an astonishment at the technique demonstrated in these pictures.

Torture by shame and humiliation and violation of cultural precepts, as opposed to breaking bones, sleep deprivation, infliction of pain. Psychological vs physiological torture. Is one type preferable? Which is more effective? What does choosing one method over the other say about the torturers? All I can conclude so far is that there are many things I don't want to know about other people.

By the way, I have a few Iranian friends who were incarcerated for their political affiliations during the 70's and 80's. They were really just boys then, and they were physically tortured by their jailers, other Iranians all. Certainly the practice of torture is not more (or less) specific to Europeans or Americans.

Posted by: atmikha at May 18, 2004 07:05 AM

And in answer to this question:
"Should he (Saddam Hussein) have been allowed to continue, which in this case meant commiting genocide on his own people, or what?"

I say "what." Saying the US is justified in armed invasion of a country because the leader of that country was a criminal is the same kind of thinking which made Osama Bin Laden great. He (or those like him) attacked the symbols of America's military industrial might, because he objected to how they are used.

Who gave the US the right to interfere with Iraq's domestic policy? We did it because we can, and because we want their oil. Furthermore, I think the message is loud and clear, that we can do it anywhere to anyone else, if unchecked.

As an American, I do not wish to participate in this criminal aggression. I wish Bush would formally admit to making a mistake, and publicly commit to reparations, building a consensus among the various factions now being job #1.

Posted by: atmikha at May 18, 2004 07:21 AM

"I know some of you have been hurt, as truth is often very bitter indeed. I know some hate it that their favorite November candidate may suffer by this."

Pedram, you know what hurts me? That the major parties conspired together in going to war and that there is no salvation come November. Yeah, I can vote for Nader but he will not win.

Oh, for an honest, honorable and electable candidate!

But don't think that we hurt because we supposedly were sheep that now see the light.

Posted by: Brad at May 18, 2004 08:21 AM

"the same kind of thinking which made Osama Bin Laden great"?

Are you rooming with him or something?

Posted by: at May 18, 2004 09:04 AM

Israel's advice is as cynical and repugnant as the Mullah's banning of torture:

Posted by: at May 18, 2004 09:11 AM

Nader could win. Unfortunately he was born in the wrong country. I'm very surprised to see that people in America don't vote for somebody because they think he's not likely to be elected. That's not how people act if they really beleive they're free. Come on, try it, it won't hurt. The alternative is not a true choice, because GWB and JFK will be very much the same on a lot of important matters, so don't waste your vote for them. Don't you think it's worth a try to vote for Nader? I think it is. Let those in the big parties see you don't like what they do. Let the people out there in the world know. Show some courage. Don't be afraid of taking the risk. You're not going to lose anything.

Posted by: PK at May 18, 2004 10:50 AM

I think "NOBODY should be excluded". It's unfair and dangerous to exclude people.

Posted by: PK at May 18, 2004 10:52 AM

Funny no one here seems to be outraged at the beheading of a CIVILIAN American. I guess you seem to feel since he was an American that makes it okay.
I also see no one had made comments to the use of WMDs in artillery shells made into IEDs in Iraq. But I guess none of you would mention that since you still believe there are no WMDs in Iraq.
Funny how most of you here see things so one sided. I don't think you can find an American who agrees with what happen to the Iraqis in prison but many of you seem to think it is Americans who are naive and closed minded.

Posted by: at May 18, 2004 11:37 AM

A single shell dating back to the Iraq-Iran war (in which the U.S. blamed the victim and not the aggressor and expressed no outrage over WMDs) does not a present day WMD stackpile make.

And why should I be more outraged over the beheading of someone than their being shot, burned alive or otherwise murdered. Just because of who did it?

When I went to Iran in the 1990s I was warned by the U.S. State Department that if I got into any trouble I was on my own and that my government could not be counted on to defend me.

Posted by: Brad at May 18, 2004 12:22 PM

Murder is murder and nobody should deny it is wrong. Whether it is commited by Americans or Iraqis. But this is war. You cannot blame people for killing others in a war. That's the nature of war, horrible though. What you can blame people for is starting a war and creating such a situation, and we all know who's to blame here. And I agree with Brad: An Iraqi life is just as much worth as an American one.

Posted by: PK at May 18, 2004 12:32 PM

Hey I'm thinking about starting a campaign to promote Nader. Anybody has any idea about it? Anybody going to vote for him?

Posted by: PK at May 18, 2004 12:34 PM


So far, Nader is the only one planning to run on a platform promoting American ideals. I voted for him last time and expect to again.

Posted by: Brad at May 18, 2004 12:40 PM

Agreed, an Iraqi life is as important as an American life but the outrage here only seems to cut one way is the point I was making.

Posted by: at May 18, 2004 12:55 PM

Don't be to fast to say there is no stockpile. Because the argument is already changing from the Iraqis did NOT have WMDs to well okay they had these but that does not make it a stockpile. Where did these two shells come from and are there anymore of them (i.e. a stockpile is the questions to be asked).

Posted by: at May 18, 2004 12:58 PM

No, we know that Iraq HAD WMD (i.e. chemical weapons) and we know that when they WERE using them there was no outrage from the U.S. When Iraq was confronted with a credible deterrent, those weapons were NOT used.

What matters is whether Iraq posed a serious enough threat to the U.S. to justify going to war. Artillery shells were never a threat to the U.S.

Posted by: Brad at May 18, 2004 01:15 PM

sure they can be, a 155mm shell can be given to anyone with an ax to grind with the US and smuggled quite easily into this country and set off in any major city for maximum effect.

Posted by: at May 18, 2004 01:19 PM

Ok, fair enough. Who did a better job of controlling terrorists (particularly those that are a threat to the U.S.) in Iraq? Saddam Hussein or Occupation Authority? Were those shells (assuming there are more) in more secure hands BEFORE the war or AFTER the advent of chaos?

It is a lot better to have such things in the hands of someone with an address and assets to lose, even if they aren't exactly democratic or nice folks. They aren't much good if they can't be used. We had effective deterrence except when we wanted Iranians dead.

Posted by: Brad at May 18, 2004 01:36 PM

Torture in any form is inhumaine. Not all americans support this form of behavior, though we still may support our military.

Posted by: dennis at May 18, 2004 02:44 PM

The only difference I see between Kerry and Bush, is that Kerry has actually been in combat, and has a record of standing up for his beliefs in the face of opposition. Not a great record, but more than Bush. I would say he has leadership abilities, in spite of the fact that he could only have gotten where he is by perfecting the art of compromise.

I voted for Nader in the last election, because I felt he had the most integrity, but the truth is, what good is integrity if you can't get people behind your agenda and all moving in the same direction?

Maybe I'll just vote for McCain. He at least understands torture. He spent many many long years in the Hanoi Hilton, and the picture of him taken by the Red Cross was as bad as any I've seen lately.

Posted by: atmikha at May 18, 2004 06:23 PM

Some More Thoughts on Sarin

>From a reader: FOX was reporting that the DoD says the shell tests
positive for sarin and that IT WAS A TWO-CHAMBERED SHELL. That's
weird. It means either:

One: it wasn't the Iraqi device I was describing, it's foreign. Even
the most fearmongering sources I've seen, culling from UNSCOM, etc.,
admit that Iraq never could pull off in four years what it took the US
twenty years to make, which is why Saddam had some poor sap in a gas
mask do the things by hand.

Two: FOX screwed up and gave the Little Golden Book definition of
binary, ignoring that fact. The BBC did something like this on Monday,
but they were quoting some civilian official. No one is picking up
FOX's story, and even FOX has moved it off their front page. WTF? Has
FOX jumped the gun again?

However: The DoD quote states that the ingredients "didn't mix
properly" during the explosion, so despite some sloppy wording by FOX,
that means #1 is more likely.

So where the hell is this thing from?


As I said earlier, Soviet shells were 152mm, Stratfor's mumbling about
little green rings notwithstanding. Wrong calibre, wrong markings (the
shell in question had none, one of a number of things behind Kimmit's
theory about the ignorance of its use). Iraqis were big on their 155mm
artillery for chemical weapons for one simple reason: it throws stuff
farther (40km, I think). They liked rockets even more.

Iraq bought lots of stuff from China. Can't find a reference to a
155mm binary anywhere.

The UK supposedly helped Iraq with its weapons program (and much of
Iraq's 155mm artillery was from S. Africa, but I don't know how much
of that was based on pre-1947 models). Can't find a reference on that.

Nope, the only one I can find is the M687, made in the USA.

Now hold on. The usual response is to say I'm saying this thing is a
plant. That's stupid. I might as well plant a samurai sword on you and
accuse you of assassinating Abraham Lincoln. Planted evidence has to
be plausible.

More likely, I think, is another John Gunther Dean moment, only this
time it isn't the Mossad that's going to get soaked. This also
explains why this story has no legs and the adm. isn't pushing it they
way they've pushed even weaker stuff in the recent past:

-It's one thing to move the goal posts from A Bazillion Tons of Hot
Death to two duds.

-It's quite another to call unwanted attention to more direct
involvement in the Iran/Iraq war than we've admitted previously.

Even though W couldn't have had anything to do with that, no GOP
administration would want that to break this close to an election.
[sound of crickets...]

Two possible outcomes: this gets really weird in a hurry; this story
dies. Right now it looks to be the latter. This story has fallen like
a turd from a tall moose ever since it broke.

Posted by: at May 20, 2004 10:44 AM

U ought to be kidding if you compare the photo takings in that prison in Iraq to actually what torture is at the same level. Whatever reason some body presents to justify the action is not the issue.
For all we knew naked pictures were taken to humuliate the prisoners to make them submit to providing information. Were they contrary to Geniva Convention yes. Were they comparable to the behaviour of prison guards in the Iranian Government prisons or Saddam's prisons. Not a chance. Had you heard about them prior to being publicised by the American Military no.
What happened in that prison is more like somebody with a bad taste was making pornography films witghout paying the porn stars.
However, the backlash of the events is the price that a free society like the US is paying by wasted resources and time of the pweople of this nation, providing distraction for the naive people of other countries. It is a sad situation that the outreaching power of the US news media can be put into such wasteful use instead of concentrating on subtantial issues and problems of the US and the rest of the world.

In my opinion what ever the reasons or motivations for starting the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, if the results evantually are a "primitive" democracy for those countries the effort is worth while. I have great hopes that "primitive " democracy will come with the help of people of those two countries.
Wouldn't that be good thing for Middle east to have at laest one or two democracies?

Posted by: Ray at May 26, 2004 05:37 PM